Senators wary over gov’t contracts being canceled during review
MANILA, Philippines — While many senators supported the review of all contracts entered into by the government, some have expressed caution against rescinding contracts found to be onerous.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday said the government “must respect the sanctity of agreements” and that the power to review “must not be used to harass.”
He pointed out that existing and binding contracts “cannot simply be classified as onerous and unilaterally cancelled” as there is a procedure outlined in the contract.
To do otherwise, Drilon said, would constitute a breach of the government’s obligations under the contract.
“Government must respect the sanctity of the agreements; otherwise, no country or entity would enter into contracts with us because we cannot be trusted to honor our obligations,” Drilon said in a text message.
“This power to review, moreover, must not be used to harass,” he added.
Drilon said if a contract was found to be disadvantageous or onerous, the government could either renegotiate its terms, go to court for its reformation, or bring it to the Ombudsman if it violates the anti-graft law.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian echoed Drilon’s opinion, saying that the review should not be meant to rescind contracts as it could tarnish the reputation of the country in attracting potential investors.
“The review should not be meant to rescind live contacts. Reneging on contracts will tarnish the reputation of the our country in terms of attracting potential investors and the much needed FDIs [foreign direct investments],” Gatchalian said in a separate statement.
Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo Lacson said that the review of government contracts “should not stop there” as he proposed that those responsible for entering the country into onerous contracts should be “made accountable and made liable.”
“I assume it includes an inventory of all government contracts, simultaneous with the review. It should not stop there,” Lacson said in a separate text message.
“Those responsible for tying us up with onerous contracts, which are obviously grossly disadvantageous to the government, should be made accountable and made liable,” he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte recently ordered the review of contracts entered into by the country, including those with China, to remove any onerous provision detrimental to public interest.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra also earlier bared that the DOJ has already organized teams to review all government contracts, including controversial loans with China.
Senator Grace Poe earlier expressed support on the President’s motion, however, she said the review must not only check if contracts are ‘onerous and one-sided,’ but it must establish the necessity of the project to be funded.
Senator JV Ejercito, meanwhile, called for a “transparent and fair” review.
He also said the review should focus on concessionaire agreements on water and power, which, he said, are “important utilities that impact the daily lives of our people.” /jpv
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